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RSVP : Gourmet Dinner Parties for Art's Sake


Los Angeles achieved new status as a party town as 46 "Art of the Palate" dinners were given around the city Thursday and Friday to benefit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The evenings provided a range from a casual back-yard barbecue to an intimate black-tie dinner in a penthouse to a lively soiree at the "Psycho" mansion at Universal Studios.

About 1,100 people took part as LACMA's 11 support councils worked together to raise more than $200,000; money that will allow the museum to open again on Tuesdays.

So what were party-goers up to over the two nights? A sampling on Thursday included a progressive "Dinner on the Riviera" in Pacific Palisades, where Tally and William Mingst (he's the president of the museum's board of trustees) hosted cocktails for 24 people in the back yard of their ranch-style home. Guests, including Architectural Digest editor Paige Rense (she was also the event's honorary adviser) and dinner chairwoman Jann McCord and husband Bill, dined on smoked salmon while taking in the Mingst's extensive Inuit art collection.

"I gave one of these kinds of dinners once," Rense said, "and I didn't know anyone who was there. But it ended up being wonderful." After cocktails it was a short walk across the street for an Italian-themed dinner hosted by Beverly and Herb Gelfand, collectors of turn-of-the-century American art.

Meanwhile, at the Playboy mansion in Holmby Hills, 20 guests were getting a tour of Hugh and Kimberley Hefner's zoo and aviary, plus the infamous grotto. (Mr. and Mrs. Hef were unable to make the event.)

Dinner was served outdoors by the pool on Jackson Pollock-esque splatter-print tablecloths. Even the food looked like art--white salmon or tournedos of veal with colorful vegetables and a dessert of poached pears and white chocolate mint ice cream that looked like a Chagall.

Richard Rosenzweig, Playboy's executive vice president, and his wife Judy Henning were the hosts. Billed as "special guest" was artist Billy Al Bengston, resplendent in a leopard-print jacket. Jazz guitarist Phil Upchurch provided the entertainment.

Friday evening, apricot and soft cream roses, amid place-settings of antique gold and white china, decorated three circular tables, reflecting the elegance of Dona and Dwight Kendall's new Bel-Air home, where they hosted their "Tres Elegante" for 30.

"I wasn't originally going to do the menu in French, but somehow French fries didn't sound as elegant as frites a la Joachim," said Dona Kendall.

The party guests were greeted with glasses of Dom Perignon 1975, selected table seating numbers from a silver bowl and, to make sure everyone really mingled, the women were asked to change seats for dessert.

Among the guests were Anjelica Huston and her husband Robert Graham, Alana and Michael Jackson, who are admirers and collectors of Graham's work, and Maggie and Earl Russell, who said they'd chosen this particular party so they could see the new house.

Over at the home of Mumsey and Allan Nemiross, the art treasures include a clock once presented to Napoleon, part of his extensive collection of time pieces, which are on display amusingly juxtaposed with his contemporary art collection.

Mumsey Nemiross gave her guests a tour of her house where "everything is art," including the bed designed by Laddie John Dill.

Supper, a tasty buffet of grilled meats and vegetables followed by fresh fruit and brownies catered by Marmalade, was eaten at tables on the tennis court. The 75 guests, most of whom had honored the Nemiross' request to wear "Gatsby" white, included Mumsey's art gallery partner Alexis Deutsch with Russell Collins, Alexis Deutsch's father Lester Deutsch with Deborah Keener, Bill and Eileen Zimmerman and Esther and Rick Rosenfield.

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